They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

Post-Mortem: The Watershed Oscars

By J. Don Birnam

March 2, 2017

It's Ma HER sha la.

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A few days removed from Moonlight’s stunning, historic triumph at the Academy Awards, we try to make sense of it all and put the 2016-2017 Oscars season to bed. But no joke, movie history books will be written about this year. Digesting what just happened fully will be impossible.

I hope this year puts to rest any notion - born of the thoughtless #OscarsSoWhite moniker - that the Academy is full of racist ninnies. The Academy finally reached outside and beyond itself - buoyed arguably not by some sense of racial or political statement, but by the idea, I advanced here, that it was high time to listen to other stories. As it turns out, my impassioned, yearly defenses of the Academy have even more resonance this year than in previous ones, despite my perhaps premature critique of them before the telecast.

The Flub

You probably don’t need me to tell you about the embarrassing and somewhat unfortunate (but also highly amusing) ending to the night, with Faye Dunaway mistakenly but understandably screaming out “La La Land” in what was supposed to be a scripted finale to the night. Suffice it to say that a perfect confluence of factors had to be present to result in this moment - including that Best Actress was the last award and that the winner of that category was in a Best Picture front-runner, which has not happened since Million Dollar Baby in 2004.

In any event, the grace and majesty with which La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz handled the entire fiasco is a testament to the fact that for all that seems to divide us as a people today, there are still some worthy humans out there.


La La Land Cedes The Stage

But even before La La Land was announced and then renounced as the night’s big winner, it was clear as the night progressed that something fishy was afoot. La La Land, the movie about Hollywood that these Hollywood insiders surely had to love (and that it had already loved with Critics’ Choice, PGA, DGA, BAFTA, and Globes wins), was supposed to be more a less a sweeper. Quickly, however, that did not materialize.

First the movie lost Costumes to the more lavish gowns of Fantastic Beasts, which I had sort of felt but still not predicted. But then it lost both sound races, one of which at least always goes to musicals. What was up? It still netted the expected Score and Song awards, as well as a deserved cinematography win, but any chances of a record were clearly gone and it did not seem to figure in the Screenplay or Editing races. At that point, even Emma Stone seemed in peril.

In the end, the movie did very well, netting six Oscars (as many as the top winner last year, Mad Max, but also Best Director), but falling just short - quite literally - of that seventh.

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